23rd October 2020

Dear Parents, Carers and Friends of The Deanery

As we end this first half term of the academic year, I would like to thank all of our parents, carers and friends for their support, goodwill and patience over the last eight weeks. It has certainly been a challenging time for everyone.

Over the last eight weeks, and like all schools locally, we have had positive coronavirus test results for a very small number of pupils. When you consider that we have 1453 pupils and over 150 staff, that pupils attend from all over Wigan and that sadly the number of cases locally is rising rapidly, that is quite remarkable. As you know, we have put in place significant changes to the school day and routines and many of those have now become embedded. Pupils have responded very well indeed to these changes and we are very proud of them. Thank you for your support – it is very much appreciated.

When we are notified of a positive case, we act immediately and follow a strict protocol, including taking guidance from Public Health authorities. On most occasions, this results in a relatively small number of pupils having to self-isolate. However, each case is unique and is treated according to the particular circumstances. This has meant half-year closures once or twice and full year groups, on two occasions. None of this is done lightly. When deciding on a course of action, it is a delicate balancing act between maintaining safety, preventing transmission, and considering the educational and social impacts of pupils having to self-isolate for two weeks. I realise that this impacts on families in many ways and I do it with a heavy heart.

It is almost certainly the case that we have not got everything right and that there are things we can still improve on. Rest assured, we will continue to work tirelessly to make sure our pupils receive the best education we can provide in the circumstances. It may interest parents to note that central government has provided very little financial support to schools to pay for any of the significant extra costs we have incurred.

Reopening school and ensuring that we operate fully within this new climate has led to a very substantial additional workload for school staff. With that in mind, I would like to thank the teaching and support staff of the school for their dedication and professionalism, and for going the extra mile for our pupils. We are blessed to have such wonderful and committed staff. I hope they are able to have a restful break and some time to relax. It is, of course, very tempting in these difficult times to focus on the negatives and on the challenges we all undoubtedly are facing. However, there are so many positives that we can reflect on also, and I make no apologies for sharing these with you:

• We have been able to provide a full curriculum in school for all of our pupils. Pupils have been able to access their normal timetable, their normal subjects and their specialist classrooms. This is not happening in many schools.

• It is great that there has been no interruption to learning for our Year 7 pupils in their first half term at The Deanery, with all lessons taking place in the classroom and no pupils or groups asked to self-isolate.

• We had 7 clear weeks of sixth form lessons being taught in the classroom. This equates to approximately 1612 hours of face to face learning, plus approximately 244 live sixth form lessons for this last week of the half term.

• Teachers have given out 29,852 achievement points to pupils this half term. On average, this is approximately 20 points per pupil, which is fantastic and reflects the excellent behaviour and hard work of pupils.

• Wonderful support received from parents on the parent Facebook page. Mrs Turner is very grateful!

• Attendance of those pupils eligible to attend is 94% which is very pleasing in the current climate.

• We have distributed over 100 laptops to pupils who did not have a device to work on at home.

• We are pleased with the engagement in live lessons and the positive engagement from pupils on Synergy Classwork.

• Our team of wonderful new Year 11 prefects have been selected and are doing a great job.

• More parents have signed onto their portal account and we encourage everyone to do so.

• Please do take a look at the Twitter pages of some of our curriculum subjects, showcasing great work recently by pupils (Languages, Science, English, PE, History, Geography, Food, Sixth Form, Careers)

Today we also say goodbye to our Catering Assistant, Doreen Humphreys, who at the age of 83 is taking a well-earned retirement after 25 years at The Deanery. Doreen has served our school in many capacities over that time, most recently by being our ‘tea lady’. Doreen never fails to brighten our days and keep us going. We thank Doreen for her service and wish her well in her retirement. She will be very much missed.

We do not know what the next half term will bring but the prospect of any significant improvement in the situation with coronavirus seems unlikely before Christmas. However, let us not forget that in the midst of our difficulties and challenges, God’s love remains and that we ‘have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast’ (Hebrews 6:19). Throughout this crisis, our whole school community has demonstrated our Christian values of faith, hope, love, wisdom, courage and integrity in abundance. I am sure we will continue to see those values lived out as we help our pupils flourish in the weeks and months ahead.

Take care and may God continue to bless our school.

Yours faithfully
Mr M Wood